Agents said to oppose inquiry

Investigator says he was discouraged from probing FBI shooting

March 15, 2002|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Two senior agents from the FBI's Baltimore office told a private detective yesterday that the mistaken shooting of an unarmed Pasadena man likely would be ruled a "clean shoot," and discouraged him from looking into the case further, the investigator said in an interview.

Dudley F.B. "Butch" Hodgson, a former FBI agent who has been retained by the shooting victim's lawyers, said he was told by one of the agents: "There's no middle ground in this thing. You're either with us or against us."

A top FBI official said late yesterday that the investigation into the shooting March 1 of Joseph C. Schultz is far from complete and that any remarks made by the agents to Hodgson "clearly reflect their own personal opinions" - not the FBI's official position.

"The official agency position is we would not do anything to discourage the people aggrieved here from pursuing every option open to them," said Assistant Director John E. Collingwood, a spokesman with FBI headquarters in Washington.

Hodgson was hired Monday by attorneys representing Schultz, who was shot in the face after FBI agents searching for a bank robber two weeks ago mistakenly pulled over the car Schultz's girlfriend was driving. Schultz, whose right jaw was shattered by a bullet from an agent's M-4 rifle, was released from the hospital this week but faces a series of reconstructive surgeries.

FBI officials have apologized for the shooting and promised a full investigation into what was an apparent case of mistaken identity. Investigators from FBI headquarters are conducting one review, which will be forwarded to the Justice Department's civil rights division. Anne Arundel County police are conducting a separate probe, to be reviewed by local prosecutors.

Hodgson began his own investigation this week for attorneys Arnold M. Weiner and Robert J. Welchek, who represent Schultz. After three days on the case, Hodgson said, he received two calls early yesterday from longtime agents in the Baltimore office, calls that he described as attempts to get him to leave the case.

"They say the office opinion on this case is, `It's a good shooting,'" Hodgson told The Sun yesterday. "I said, `Fine. If that's the case, the facts are going to come out and show that.'"

But Hodgson, who worked undercover and violent crime cases during his two decades in the Baltimore FBI office, said he also told his former colleagues: "I don't understand how the office can think it's a good shoot, because everything I've seen indicates that it's not."

Hodgson said he received calls from Sam Wichner, firearms instructor for the Baltimore office, and from Jim Ellis, a supervisor in the Calverton office, which reports to the Baltimore field office. Wichner and Ellis did not return phone calls seeking comment. Their supervisor, Lynne A. Hunt, special agent in charge of the Baltimore office, was out of town and not available for comment.

Collingwood, at FBI headquarters, stressed that the shooting investigation intentionally excluded agents assigned to the Baltimore office in order to be fully "independent of anyone who would have any emotional or personal interest in the outcome in the case."

At the local level, Anne Arundel County Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan also has promised an independent review, free of pressure from federal authorities. He said he also has met with Hunt and investigators from Washington who promised to fully cooperate with the local police probe.

In a recent interview, Shanahan said he told the police captain on duty March 1: "Don't worry about the FBI. Stay focused on your obligation to Anne Arundel County and you won't go wrong.'"

Weiner and Welchek, prominent Lutherville attorneys accustomed to high-profile cases, said yesterday that the individual calls to Hodgson raise concerns about the integrity of the FBI investigation - a question that Collingwood said would be reviewed.

"Instead of looking inward at their own deficiencies that led to this awful thing to happen, they're turning outward to try to intimidate people," Weiner said.

Hodgson said that Wichner warned him that he would "end up looking pretty silly" once the shooting was ruled justified. In the call from Ellis, Hodgson said, he was told that he would be blocked from social interaction with his former FBI colleagues and friends if he worked on this case. Hodgson said it was Ellis who warned, "There's no middle ground on this thing. You're either with us or against us."

Hodgson said he was angered by the calls, but undeterred.

"We're going to see this thing through," he said. "And the chips are going to fall where they may."

Sun staff writer Laura Barnhardt contributed to this article.

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